Wrasslin’ Gators

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Sometimes life starts to feel a little boring.You get complacent with your safe day to day activities and decide you need a little excitement. What to do? How about a little Alligator Wrasslin’ or some Alligator Kissin’?

We visited Kliebert’s Turtle and Alligator Farm in Hammond, Louisiana and it was awesome. When you walk in to the main building the funky smell of reptiles is almost overwhelming. The bathrooms are disgusting. This might sound bad but isn’t that what you want and expect from an alligator farm? I wouldn’t want a pristine clean experience when dealing with man eating alligators. There were some snakes and small alligators that you can hold before starting the tour.

How do I know that they were man eating alligators? Our tour guide had 4 of his fingers bitten off by an alligator while doing a tour a few years ago. You can see his hand in the picture below. He said he was lucky to keep his arm.

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There are over 47,00 turtles. The farm harvests and hatches over 1 million turtle eggs a year and sells them all over the world. Mason found out that tortoises aren’t as easy to ride as they look.

Madelyn had fun holding some of the small alligators. I was surprised that she did it but she didn’t want to put it down.

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Our tour guide went out to feed one of the biggest alligators on the farm named Big Easy. He opened a gate to get some chicken to feed the alligator. I had a hard time watching him feed the alligators because he left the gate behind us open, and yes there are alligators on the other side of that fence.

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How about we don’t leave alligator gates open while our backs are turned to them. Even more, how about we don’t try to rile up the alligators. I can tell you that I am not meant to be an alligator farmer. I like all of my fingers way too much.

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~Michael~

 

Are Froglegs Considered Seafood?

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Our family likes seafood a lot but my kids have never been able to try a lot of fresh seafood since we live in the landlocked state of Utah. We met someone at church who insisted that we go to a fresh seafood buffet with him at White’s Seafood and Steakhouse. We are glad we did.

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We were able to sample crab, snow crab, prawns, crawfish, and a huge variety of other seafood. We loved the boiled stuff. I was really excited to let our kids try a bunch of new foods that they hadn’t ever had before.

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Reece and Mason were smiling like as big as other kids smile when they visit Disneyland. The shrimp, crab, and crawfish were amazing.The shrimp were huge.

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The frog legs were OK but at least we can say we have had them. Are frog legs considered seafood? I’m not sure but they taste like chicken.

~Michael~

St. Charles Line

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Streetcars, one of the many things that New Orleans is famous for. Some of our friends recommended that we take the St. Charles line to rest our feet and see some of the pretty areas in New Orleans and we listen to our friends so we hopped on a street car. Can you tell which of our kids liked the streetcar ride and which of them might have been a bit underwhelmed.

The St Charles line takes you through the Garden District where you will find beautiful architecture and…….yep you guessed it, gardens. Marisa and I really enjoyed seeing all of the beautiful homes.

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When I was in high school I became a fan of Tulane University for two reasons. 1. It is  the University Julia Roberts was going to in the movie, The Pelican Brief and I had a thing for Julia Roberts. 2. They have the coolest mascot, The Green Wave. Tulane campus is right off this line so we got off the streetcar to explore.

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There was an amazing gated community next to Tulane University called Audubon Place and a beautiful park called Audubon Park across the street. The park looked really nice. The community had a security guard and was inaccessible to street urchins like us. Marisa really wanted to get in to Audubon Place. She just sat looking through the gate forever. Poor girl.

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The St Charles line was a fun, cheap way to see a bunch of New Orleans and take some time off of our feet.  We had fun even though Marisa wasn’t allowed into all of the places she wanted to go.

~Michael~

Laura Plantation

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We had the great opportunity to visit a plantation while we were in New Orleans and there were quite a few to choose from. Marisa wanted to go to the Laura Plantation because she had heard the stories told in the tours were amazing.

The plantation house isn’t as majestic looking as the house at Oak Alley but it was still impressive. It was formed and created kind of like a prefabricated house. They cut the wood and planned how the house would be built. This picture shows the numbers carved into the support structures that were used to follow the plans for building the house,

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The Laura Plantation is one of a series of plantations that were started along the Mississippi river as it approached New Orleans. It’s main crop was sugar cane and it’s main source of labor were slaves.

The house was set up to take advantage of the breeze that would flow from the Mississippi. The doors could be opened in a specific way that would allow a breeze to flow through the whole house.

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There were a lot of interesting family stories and it was fascinating to hear about the rise and success of the plantation and then the subsequent fall.

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A lot of the stories were about the Duparc family and the dynamics of how they interacted with each other as the farm was passed from generation to generation. There were some stories about the slaves although there wasn’t as much about them because there wasn’t a lot of written history from the slaves or about them. The main information available about the slaves was the inventories that were taken when farm ownership was passed down the generations. This is a list of slaves and their values.

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It was heartbreaking to hear about the treatment of the slaves. Some of them left during the Civil War to fight with the Union, only to return to the plantation after the war because they didn’t know what else to do. The plantation did really well after slavery became illegal. The main reason was because the slaves didn’t know life outside the plantation so they didn’t leave. Prior to the war all of their necessities like food and housing were paid for. After the war the plantation owners paid them a wage but they would charge rent for housing and charge exorbitant rates for food and other necessities in plantation stores which allowed them to continue with slavery. It was sad but eye opening to hear about this.

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Ancestors to the saves continued to work on the plantation and live in the same housing that there grandparents live in until the 1970’s when the plantation was finally shut down. I am glad that tourism continues to support these plantations so we can see their history and try to learn from the past.

~Michael~

French Quarter Foodies

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Like I said in my previous article, when I told people I was going to visit The French Quarter, the first thing they talked about was the food. “You have to go to Cafe Du Monde.” Make sure and have a “Po’ Boy.” “Make sure to eat at _______.” It was hard to follow all of the suggestions as we were there for one day, and our kids got filled up so fast that we didn’t even try everything we had planned. We still got to experience some new foods and it was a lot of fun.

The first thing we did because we were told we had to was to get beignets at Cafe Du Monde.

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The beignets were really good. I was pretty fascinated by the restaurant. They serve beignets with 12 pounds of powdered sugar on top, coffee, and hot chocolate, and that’s it. The floor is sticky and gross, the bathrooms are disgusting, and it is packed. We walked by a few times throughout the day and there were always lines. It shows you the importance of word of mouth, and the value of simplicity. I have a theory that Cafe Du Monde does so well because everywhere else in the French Quarter is such an assault on the senses that it’s a relief to go somewhere with fried brown food and the comfort of not having to make a choice.

If you go don’t wear black and sit upwind of your neighbor since you will be covered with powdered sugar the rest of the day.

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After walking around for a while we went to Central Grocery and got the best cold sandwich I have ever had. We bought one whole and one half Muffaletta which filled us up too much and no one was hungry the rest of the day.

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There were candy shops every where making pralines in the windows. We sampled several different places and we thought that Aunt Sally’s were the best.

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We ate too many beignets and the sandwich really filled us up. The only other thing we ate was a softshell crab po’boy. I don’t remember where we got it but it was tasty.

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The food we tried was really great, we just wish we cold have had more.

 

French Quarter

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The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans. It was founded in 1719 and most of the existing architecture in the neighborhood was built in the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. It’s my experience that if you ask someone what to do there, the first thing they mention is the food. The second is the best locations and streets to party. I will talk more about the food tomorrow.

The neighborhood is very unique and has a lot of charm. If you have younger children like us you want to be careful where you take them. I got a lot of recommendations of where not to go and so we didn’t really run into any problems but it pays to research where to go. We ended up walking 6 miles the day we visited just wandering the quarter and looking through interesting stores and shops.

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We visited Cafe Du Monde and then took a look at the mighty Mississippi river. I have been to the Mississippi headwaters quite a few times in Lake Itasca State Park in Minnesota so it was fun to see where the river ends as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. We spent a little time watching barges go by.

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Jackson Square is a famous area with a lot of history. Andrew Jackson is captured on his mount with his hat raised. He seemed pretty bummed that he is going to be taken off of the $20 bill.

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The St. Louis Cathedral is right by Jackson Square and it is the oldest Cathedral in the United States. It was very beautiful and the stained glass windows were amazing.

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My favorite thing was the street music. There were a lot of amazing performers with crowds that were really into the music.

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We had a really good time and it was a very unique experience. If you are with kids do some research on where to go and how to be safe and you will find it to be a very original experience.

~Michael~

 

 

 

Welcome to the Bayou

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After spending 5 weeks in Texas we moved on to Louisiana. We usually don’t make reservations until a day or two before we move on but when we left Houston, Marisa and I decided to just start driving and find a campground while we drove. Marisa was led to a great spot at Fairview-Riverside State Park in Madisonville, La. Wow is was pretty. We are about 45 minutes from New Orleans and next to a river.

There is a sign by our campsite that says our children are slow but I assume it is referring to the slow life that we live as opposed to their mental capacities.

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We spent time every night going on beautiful walks by the river. It was the first time I had seen an alligator in the water while taking the dogs for a walk

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I have never been on the bayou and I couldn’t get enough of the trees. They grow right up out of the water and the moss that hangs from them is amazing.

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We had a lot of slow days at this park since it was so beautiful and fun to relax there. Marisa and Madelyn even had time to make a basket together.

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The campground was extremely busy over the weekend but it was really slow during the week. It was an easy drive to New Orleans and the nearby plantations and we made some new friends while we were there. Marisa was led to the perfect spot!

~Michael~

 

Career Day: Landscape Architect

We have had a lot of career day opportunities while we have been on our year long trip and while we were in Houston Reece had a good opportunity to see what a landscape architect does. He worked with him for 4 days and even though it was a lot of it was hard work, he really liked it, especially because of all of the money he earned. Marisa’s brother Cameron got a degree in landscape architecture and he owns the company Set Roots LLC in Houston.

This is what Cameron looks like when he is yelling at you for taking pictures when you are supposed to be working.

setroosts 4I did a little manual labor but  I also spent a lot of time “supervising.” Reece did a lot of manual labor and spent no time “supervising.” That’s him transporting wheelbarrows of dirt to the back yard.

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I was able to go spend a day with Cameron and see what he does. It was fun and satisfying to see how much the yards changed. Here are some of the before and afters on the project that we helped with.

My pictures don’t do the finished product justice but Set Roots LLC does a great job and we had a lot of fun hanging with Uncle Cameron.

~Michael~

 

 

 

Reliving Marisa’s Childhood

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One of Marisa’s favorite childhood memories of living in Houston was going out to the pond to catch turtles. She knew that Madeline would love it so she took her out to experience the same wonder that she used to feel.

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They caught a turtle to have as a pet for a few days while we visited family. I refused to let them keep it. We are not collecting animals while we live in a fifth wheel. Maybe we can get one later. They went back and released the little turtle back into the wild. Click on the link below to see them set the little guy free.

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Houston Zoo

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I have mixed feelings about zoos in general. I am an animal lover and on the one hand I hate seeing majestic animals that are captive behind bars. On the other hand many zoos do a lot of research and activities that help animals throughout the world. I think it also gives people an opportunity to have an experience with exotic animals that might make them appreciate nature more and have a stronger desire to protect Mother Nature.

Our favorite exhibits were the cats. There was a cheetah, a cougar, a lion, a jaguar, and a tiger among others. If I was a wild animal I would be a big cat of some sort.

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The Houston Zoo was clean and it seemed like the animals were in good habitats. They had a lot of fundraising going on for animal research. There was a lot of variety and we enjoyed it overall.

If you get a chance to go to the zoo in Houston take it. The first Tuesday of every month between September through May is free. We took advantage of the free day and it was well worth it. Parking was terrible and we had to find paid parking about 3/4 of a mile away but the zoo didn’t seem extremely busy.

~Michael~